Scald Injury Prevention- Philadelphia Insurance Companies

Scalding Injuries: What You Need to Know to Protect Your Clients and Your Organization

Scalding injuries are among the most common and serious types of burns, and are especially dangerous for young children, the elderly, and people with disabilities who may not be able to communicate, react quickly, or move away from the source of heat. According to the American Burn Association, 33% of all burn center admissions result from scalding injuries and is the most common in children under four years old, accounting for 200,000 injuries per year. Scalding injuries can cause severe pain, infection, scarring, disability, and even death. They can also expose your organization to legal liability and financial losses.

Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY) understands the unique risks faced by organizations who serve vulnerable populations, including the risk of scald injuries. The following are some tips and best practices on how to prevent and respond to scalding injuries in your facilities. By following these guidelines, you can protect your clients, your staff, and your reputation.

What Causes Scalding Injuries?

Scalding injuries are caused by exposure to hot liquids or steam, such as water, coffee, tea, soup, or oil. The temperature and duration of the exposure determine the severity of the burn. For example, water at 140 degrees Fahrenheit can cause a third-degree burn (the most severe type) in just five seconds, while water at 120 degrees Fahrenheit can cause the same damage in five minutes. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends setting the water heater thermostat at 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to prevent scalding injuries.

Some factors that increase the risk of scalding injuries are:

  • Lack of supervision or awareness of the vulnerable individual's needs and abilities
  • Lack of proper equipment or maintenance of the water system
  • Lack of training or education for the staff on scalding prevention
  • Lack of policies or procedures for scalding prevention and response
  • Different sensitivity or tolerance to heat among different populations

How to Prevent Scalding Injuries

The best way to prevent scalding injuries is to eliminate or reduce the exposure to hot liquids or steam. Here are some steps that you can take to create a safer environment for your clients and your staff:

  • Set the water heater temperature to no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celcius).
  • Check the temperature of the water at all faucets and adjust the water heater thermostat accordingly. Use a thermometer or a test strip to measure the temperature. Do not rely on your hand or your judgment.
  • Install anti-scald devices or thermostatic mixing valves on the faucets and showers. These devices can regulate the water temperature and prevent sudden changes due to fluctuations in the water pressure.
  • Use insulated cups, mugs, or containers for hot beverages or foods. Avoid using glass or metal containers that can conduct heat. Label the containers with warning signs or symbols.
  • Keep hot liquids or foods away from the edges of tables, counters, or stoves. Use placemats, coasters, or trays to prevent spills or sliding. Do not place hot liquids or foods on unstable or uneven surfaces.
  • Use potholders, oven mitts, or gloves when handling hot pots, pans, or dishes. Do not use wet or damp cloth that can conduct heat. Do not leave hot pots, pans, or dishes unattended or within reach of the clients.
  • Educate your staff and your clients on the dangers and the prevention of scalding injuries. Provide training on how to use the equipment, how to check the water temperature, how to handle hot liquids or foods, and how to respond to a scalding injury. Use visual aids, demonstrations, or simulations to enhance learning.
  • If your operations include providing bottles to infants and young children, implement a documented policy on bottle warming and handling
  • Develop and implement policies and procedures for scalding prevention and response. Assign roles and responsibilities for the staff and the clients. Monitor and evaluate the compliance and the effectiveness of the policies and procedures. Update them as needed and provide ongoing training and education.

How to Respond to a Scalding Injury

If a scalding injury occurs, the first priority is to stop the burning process and to provide immediate care. Here are some steps that you can take to treat a scalding injury:

  • Remove the heat source and any clothing or jewelry in contact with the burn. Do not remove anything that is stuck to the skin.
  • Cool the burn with cool (not cold) water for at least 10 minutes. Do not use ice, butter, oil, or any other substances that may worsen the burn or cause infection.
  • Cover the burn with a clean, dry, and non-stick dressing. Do not pop any blisters or apply any creams, ointments, or antiseptics.
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if the burn is large, deep, or involves the face, hands, feet, or genitals.
  • Report the incident to the appropriate authorities and document the details. Follow the policies and procedures of your organization and your insurance company.

Protect the Most Vulnerable with Prevention

Scalding injuries are a serious and preventable problem that can affect anyone, but can severely impact children, elderly adults, and other vulnerable populations. By following these steps, you can help reduce the likelihood and severity of scalding injuries in an organization and keep staff and those in your care safe and healthy.

Risk Management Partner

PHLY is committed to providing our policyholders with customized risk management solutions, including those that service vulnerable populations, such as group homes, childcare facilities, and other organizations whose mission involves caring for individuals. We can help you protect your assets, your clients, and your staff from the risks and liabilities of scalding injuries and other types of risks. Visit to learn more about how PHLY can make a difference in your organization.

Additional Resources

IMPORTANT NOTICE - The information and suggestions presented by Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company are for your consideration in your loss prevention efforts. They are not intended to be complete or definitive in identifying all hazards associated with your business, preventing workplace accidents, or complying with any safety related, or other, laws or regulations. You are encouraged to alter them to fit the specific hazards of your business and to have your legal counsel review all of your plans and company policies.

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